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Newsy! Thanks, NPR + Greek Lentil Soup + Hyperbole and a Half (v.35)

February 9th, 2017

Consider this:

In Troubled And Troubling Times, I Turn To A Dear Old Friend: NPR

Photo credit: wikimedia

I’ve listened to National Public Radio for so long it has become a part of me on a cellular level. When I hear the theme music for “All Things Considered,” my reaction is multisensory. At once, I’m transported back to 1979, one of several years my family and I spent on sabbatical from New Zealand, living in a little red cottage we rented from my grandmother in rural, northern Vermont. I hear the jazzy notes announcing ATC, and instantly I smell onions sautéing with zucchini and green peppers, sprinkled with a pinch of oregano. I see my dad standing at the old electric stove, and I hear a gentle sizzle as he moves the veggies around the pan until they’re fragrant and translucent. The rich voice of Noah Adams fills the kitchen. I’m nine years old, tugging open the always-sticking pantry door to pull out four mismatched plates for the table. I reach past the stockpile of Fluffernutter, Oreos, Cheerios and Smuckers’ Goober Grape, all delights that, like NPR itself, simply don’t exist in the Southern Hemisphere.

On cold, dark winter mornings, I remember being in the kitchen again, spreading Goober Grape on sliced white bread and grabbing Oreos for my school lunch. From the clock radio in my parents’ room, I hear the soothing chirps and whistles of bird song, the opening music for “Mornings Pro Musica” hosted by Robert J. Lurtsema. Back then I thought Lurtsema’s deep, lugubrious murmurings were all wrong for a radio host. But since I still vividly recall him reading out the school lunch menu and quoting from the Farmer’s Almanac, now I understand his slow, sonorous broadcast was just right.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Terry Gross was the host of “Fresh Air.” For years, I’ve jokingly asked myself this tough question: Would I rather be interviewed by Terry Gross or be Terry Gross? All my life, I’ve thought either meeting Terry or having her job would be, perhaps in equal measure, a dream come true.

I’ve had the same life-long appreciation for Garrison Keillor. As a kid, I was mesmerized by the sound effects guy, intrigued by the tales of Guy Noir and entertained by jingles about ketchup and powder milk biscuits. Long ago, my appreciation became idolization as I realized the sheer genius behind writing and creating “A Prairie Home Companion” week after week after week.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, my husband and I were awakened in California by our clock radio a little before 6:00 a.m. As I slowly pulled myself out of sleep, I heard something I’d never heard before: “Morning Edition” host Bob Edwards stammered. I was instantly wide-awake. “Something’s wrong,” I said to my husband. I knew if this esteemed news anchor was at a loss for words, it must be something big. And bad. As we listened to Edwards, Tom Gjelten, Jackie Lydon and their fellow reporters share their view of an unfolding horror, we began to realize our lives were changed forever.

Last week, after spending too much time tracking the events of the new administration’s first week in office, I wrote this email:


I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days and weeks just wanting to cry. Worrying about everything from the survival of the polar bears and the survival of women’s rights to the survival of humanity will do that to a girl.

Right now, instead of just weeping, I decided to write an email with a heartfelt plea.

This is that email.

This is my plea: If you haven’t already done so, will you please consider donating to your local National Public Radio station? You can find your local station listed here.

Protecting and supporting professional, objective, dedicated news organizations is more critical than ever before in my lifetime. 

Your pledge – of any amount, at any time – matters. 

A lot.

If you want to lend even more support and take a big ol’ load off your mind, become a sustaining member with an automatic monthly donation. I did. Now I listen to the pledge drives completely guilt-free.

That’s it. A small suggestion about something meaningful to do in these unsettled and unsettling times.

Thanks for reading. 

And thanks, friend, for supporting National Public Radio.

You can find this piece on TheBullshitist.

Cook this:

Greek Lentil Soup

My mom and I have been making this simple, hearty soup for years. For a flavorful twist, add spicy sausage (brown it with the onion) or kale (add during the last few minutes of cooking).

Greek Lentil Soup

1 lb lentils (black or green, either dried or pre-cooked, like the ones from Trader Joe’s)

1 medium onion, diced

2 tsp garlic, minced (3-4 cloves)

1-2 Tbs olive oil

8 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)

1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes (undrained)

3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds

2 bay leaves

2 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

In a heavy-bottom soup pot, sauté onion over low heat until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic, sauté for another 3 minutes or so, being careful not to burn. Add all remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes or until lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Read this:

Hyperbole And A Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

I don’t remember the last time I laughed out loud while I was reading. I don’t mean a little snicker, either. I’m talking about a full-on laugh that makes you just a little bit embarrassed because you’re reading in a public place and no one else is in on the joke.

That’s my experience reading Hyperbole and a Half. I picked up Allie Brosh’s book, which is part comic, part graphic novel and part narrative, and handed it first to my kids. When I heard one of my boys giggling and snorting while reading in bed, I couldn’t wait for my turn.

I haven’t been disappointed. Brosh has written – and illustrated – a thoroughly off-kilter memoir. Through offbeat prose and deliberately child-like pictures, she melds humor and hilarity with serious issues like depression and suicide. I’ll unpack the title so you can see what I mean.

A failed experiment in dog intelligence

Unfortunate situations. Brosh has the dumbest dog in the world. She has confirmed this fact by giving Simple Dog an IQ test which involves, among other things, responding to her name and escaping from under a blanket. Simple Dog fails, utterly, tragically and hilariously, to do either.

Flawed Coping Mechanisms. Brosh is open about her battle with depression and deep self-loathing. She explains in heartbreaking detail what it’s like when depression crushes her with its deadening weight and makes tearing the spout on the chocolate milk feels like an intolerable crisis. Yet Brosh has enough objectivity to know that a torn milk container is absolutely not a crisis – and she hates herself even more for feeling that it is. There’s nothing funny about this cycle of intense negativity, but through her art and her words, Brosh conveys both the depth and seriousness of her despair and her laser-sharp sense of the absurd.

Mayhem. I’m just going to say this: Geese can be very, very dangerous. If you doubt this fact, read “Dinosaur (The Goose Story).” (Bonus: One of my favorite pictures in the whole book is on page 262.)

Other Things That Happened. Brosh has conversations with herself as a child, gets lost in the woods with her mother, adopts a psychotic dog, eats an alarming amount of hot sauce and moves to a new house. All those things, and many more, happened.

I hope you’ll read about them in this unique, wacky, funny, poignant, brilliant book.

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